Too nervous that I would miss the only ferry from Sami to Ithaca, and putting my fate in the hands of an early morning taxi driver, I awoke early, packed and paced in reception. The little English speaking concierge made me a coffee and I paced some more. Still no taxi. Can we call the taxi and see if he is on his way? A few minutes more. The ferry is leaving later this morning.
Little comforted, I finished the very good coffee and enquired where I buy the ferry ticket.
There, at Sami.
Oh great. A late ferry, rushing for a ticket and still no taxi.
Finally a shining silver Mercedes arrives and off we go. The driver also tells me the ferry will leave later today. They were, of course, all correct.
The ticket man had not even opened his shop and I had a ninety minute wait till ferry time. So a leisurely breakfast in a free wifi restaurant on the waterfront, connected me with the world and allayed my anxiety.
When the ferry did arrive it spewed an array of vehicles ranging from garbage trucks, buses and bicycles and eagerly consumed an equally colorful cargo including my favorite, an old ute full of onions and garlic. From this I learnt that virtually all food on Ithaca comes from elsewhere.
And then the journey across the Ionian Sea from the biggest island to the smallest which took about 40 minutes only. Again the disgorging of the cargo at a very dismal port,Pisoaotos, and another taxi ride up and over the mountains to the capital, Vathi.
My companions this time, a Nona and her 12 year old daughter from New York, returning to Ithaca for the summer. The sublime beauty of Vathi can only be described in comparison to the plainness of elsewhere, and here at last was my imagined Odysseus’ Ithaca. Or is it Homers? Much speculation remains as to the authenticity of the location and Ithaca is totally disputed by the larger island of Kephalonia.
For me, upon arrival at the Odyssey Apartments high on a hill and overlooking the harbour, my Ithaca adventure had begun.
A long stroll along the waterfront revealed a bust of Homer, a statue of Odysseus, the same sort of tourist traders as on all the islands, and the three bars that constitute Ithaca’s nightlife. This is far from a tourist mecca: too hard to get to, too expensive, and a life of simple origin that flourishes only in summer.
My hosts deserve a mention for they have indeed welcomed me with a level of companionship that makes the life of a solo traveller rich and rewarding. The apartments are superb and the view from my window and terrace has shown Vathi in all her moods. The intensity or subtlety of the colours and the changing temperament of the wind and sea is totally captivating.
Today I made contact with a Dutch woman, Ester, now a resident on Ithaca, who conducts walks on the island. Incidentally this contact came from Anna in Australia through her cousin Erika in the north of Ithaca to Ester one village away from Vathi. The upshot is that tomorrow I can join her on the Homer Walk. Sadly for me the walk starts at 8.30am in a village a 25 euro taxi ride away, which, with the cost of the walk and a return taxi fare (there is only one bus per day) it is quite an expensive exercise. But worth it I think. In an ideal world I should have hired a car to give me more access to the remainder of island but my plan was to rest up here and not have the anxiety of driving on the right side of the road and the stress of getting lost!
But the gods smiled on me and my host, Ari, suggested that his beautiful wife, Yanna, take me in their car and that Yanna join me on the walk – something that she has always wanted to do and good pr for their business and for Ester’s. Joy oh joy!
And so another quick meal by the harbour and to bed to get ready for my next Homeric adventure.